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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

How’s everyone doing?

A look at the first impressions of eager early signings

The way it’s looking right now, the peak of the annual mass college-to-bush-league conversion wave has passed through. At least as far as hastily squeezing in a little action before that itchy summer layoff is concerned.

Curiously, we don’t even see New Hampshire phenom James vanRiemsdyk (nor Captain Friar Jon Rheault for that matter) taking their first grind with the Philadelphia Phantoms, the Flyers next door affiliate. But even without that rather expectable transaction, there have been enough medium-sized splashes of intrigue.

For instance, Matt Jones, merely a sophomore for Merrimack –a team whose pool of NHL draftees is dry enough for skateboarding- shuffled down to Worcester upon signing a spontaneous ATO with the Sharks. He proceeded to sprinkle two goals, a helper, and eight penalty minutes in seven AHL games.

Speaking of shallow rosters, Maine has not ceased to be slapped with unfamiliar elements of poverty, having lost cornerstone goaltender Ben Bishop to Peoria (St. Louis’ farm club) and Andrew Sweetland –the only non-senior amongst their top seven point-getters this season- to Florida’s organization.

But here’s Bishop’s really unusual facet: in only his second of five appearances with the AHL Rivermen, he managed to charge up nine penalty minutes. In a 5-2 triumph over the Lake Erie Monsters, Bishop earned a fighting major at 9:52 of the third period, with a two-minute side dish for leaving the crease. Ninety-one seconds into his sentence –obviously served by one of his skating praetorians- Bishop picked up a two-minute tripping citation.

As mentioned above, UNH has yet to let go of their heavily profiled frosh vanRiemsdyk (although, there’s still plenty of time for that before next season). But Dick Umile has the right to proudly watch members of his hefty senior stock pick up bonus action.

With the invitation of graduating beacons Matt Fornataro and Mike Radja, the Syracuse Crunch has three new-fangled pros who had started this season in Hockey East. Although, as of Game 2 of their first round series with Cory Schneider’s Manitoba Moose, only BC runaway Brett Motherwell has laced up his blades for the Crunch.

Goaltender Kevin Regan, who in his last drop-in to Providence vacuumed a career-best 52 shots from the Friars February 15, resurfaced at the P-Bruins practice facility. He is far from likely to see any playoff action given the season-long solidity of Tuuka Rask and Jordan Sigalet, but Regan did dip back into the Granite State last Saturday to pitch a shutout against the Manchester Monarchs.

Of the three Friars who did take the chance to scrape a little more ice and get a free sample before their first full dish of pro action next year, only goaltender Tyler Sims remains obligated.

Defender Cody Wild, who took his two-way slamming and shooting skills north to Springfield, garnered 13 AHL games and 1-2-3 totals in a hurry before the Falcons snuffed out in their race for a playoff spot.

Another valuable bouncer in Trevor Ludwig had a seven-game go-around with Dallas’ AHL team in Iowa, which likewise failed to land a Calder Cup playoff berth. Now that Ludwig has a little extra time, his recent buffs here in Providence may take this moment to call up and ask for some explanations.

True, unlike Wild, he had no more collegiate eligibility to work with. But Ludwig somehow notched three helpers in his skate-whetting stint with the I-Stars versus a grand total of four points in 29 outings with the Friars this season.

Sims, also the only undrafted Friar who has successfully split for the pro ranks, has pasted Reading and Las Vegas stickers on his suitcase since parting from the Divine Campus less than five weeks ago. Already with a cumulative 1-2-1 ECHL record, as of this week he was manning the LV Wranglers bench doors behind starter Kevin Lalande (himself a pro newbie, and ironically two years younger) in their Kelly Cup series with the Stockton Thunder.

Included amongst Sims’ newest teammates are the two nearly inseparable Ferraro brothers, Chris and Peter, both former national champions with Maine in 1993. Nine years back, Peter was on his way to helping the P-Bruins wrest away the Calder Cup.

Eagles get extra wings

Steve Janaszak, Jim Craig’s generally forgotten backup throughout the “Miracle on Ice” run of 1979-80, once noted in Wayne Coffey’s 2005 chronicler, Boys of Winter, his rapid back-to-earth transition after the nationwide confetti was cleaned up. Reflecting on his debut the Baltimore Clippers in the long-deceased Eastern League, Janaszak wondered how the laws of cosmology had brought him from the White House to a bush-league barn in the span of a week.

Imagine how members of the newly crowned Boston College Eagles will respond to the collegiately commonplace grind of final exams in a few weeks. After all, when they’re cramming in the libraries and mixing ink with sweat in their pens, they will only be a month removed from the following:

a1) Averting an inconceivably wretched three-peat of runner-up finishes and spiking the NCAA trophy back into eastern ice for the first time in seven years.

2) Filing through the Red Sox clubhouse to high-five baseball’s world champions –who themselves have had some unique over-before-you-know-it journeys of late- and Mike Brennan and Matt Greene tossing the first pitch before Boston’s bout with the Yankees. All that within 24 hours of their 4-1 lashing of Notre Dame out in the Mile High City.

c3) A Tuesday night stroll onto the ice at the Garden –a sheet that’s was particularly good to them this season- during a TV timeout of another stirring rivalry game, i.e. Game 4 of Bs-Habs.

d4) A note of kudos from Bay State senator and fellow puck devotee John Kerry. (By the way, Kelly Sullivan, the lone senior on UMass-Lowell’s team this year, will see Kerry in person when he speaks at UML’s commencement, as was reported in Wednesday’s Lowell Sun).

To think that now all the BC boys will need to really shut their 2007-08 diaries securely is a note of kudos from their professors.

And to think that only 55 weeks ago, the likes of radiant rookies John Muse and Brian Gibbons were vainly steering the Cape Cod Whalers –a conglomeration of Mass prep school all-stars- in the USA Hockey championship, under the watchful eyes of this writer. (I was a senior at the Minnesota-based Shattuck-St. Mary’s, covering that team’s drive to the 18-and-under national title). Oh, the wonders that sport can do to your life.

Crashing out of her Schell

Northeastern women’s apprentice Florence Schelling backstopped the startling Swiss national team to a berth in the bronze medal game at last week’s world championship event, where they eventually submitted to Friar Mari Pehkonen’s Finns, 4-1.

According to a Husky athletics news release, the 19-year-old Schelling has already scraped up six years worth of international competition for the blossoming program, including a dip in neighboring Italy for the 2006 Olympics, as well as a Manon Rheaume-like stint in the Swiss National Men’s League.

In her latest impression, Schelling placed second amongst all WWC goaltenders, even outshining the likes of Canada’s Kim St.-Pierre and Sweden’s Kim Martin. She charged up a 3-2-0 transcript, pushing away 170 of 185 shots faced, blanking Germany in the tourney opener, and pitching in an assist in the consolation tilt.

Could Schelling’s forthcoming arrival in the Hub be much timelier for the dysfunctional Huskies? Well, rising sophomore Leah Sulyma made an adequate impression down the stretch this year, answering hefty bushels of opposing rubber on a nightly basis, to establish herself as the starter.

But if Northeastern is to fix the shallow digits in their W column, they have a choice: sneak current assistant skipper Chanda Gunn –three years removed from her dazzling days in the Husky cage- into the pads or give Sulyma a desirable fraction of rest. With Schelling, who gulped 49 shots by Team USA on April 6, no more pucks should still be unturned in that debate.

Quick Feeds: Surprise, surprise: BC’s radioactive Nathan Gerbe, who unleashed 22 points in the stretch drive en route to his long-craved title and New Hampshire women’s beacon Sam Faber, who inserted six points in as many games, were Hockey East’s final players of the month for this year…PC’s Danielle Ciarletta and Amber Yung were recognized as runners-up for March’s top goaltender and rookie respectively…The Friars’ web site recently announced a $150,000 donation by 1960 alumnus Bill Leary, given specifically in the name of the women’s team, but aimed at renovating and enriching the Friends of Friar Hockey Room at the south end of Schneider Arena…Distant multi-sport Friar athlete and former women's hockey coach Jackie Barto, whose full-time occupation is now behind Ohio State’s bench, struck gold for the first time as an international skipper at last week’s Women’s World Championship final.

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